As the opening title card comes up, our favorite wallflower Lara Jean (Lana Condor) dances to the soundtrack of “Adventures in Babysitting” as she gets ready for her first date with Peter (Noah Centineo). Her younger sister, Kitty (Anna Cathcart) walks in and turns the movie off and asks why she’s trying to be in an 80s movie again. Lara Jean can’t help being the hopeless romantic that she is, and that’s why we love her. Right away “To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You” puts us at ease. It’s going to be more of the same optimism and sweetness we got from the first breakout hit. In this case, getting more of the same has never felt better.
Now that Lara Jean is dating Peter, the most popular boy in school, she’s getting a crash course in what it means to be in a relationship. Having never had a boyfriend before, Lara Jean delights in Peter’s doting. Yet, she also experiences a new kind of jealousy, as she compares their relationship to the one that Peter had with Gen (Emilija Baranac). The biggest complication comes from more consequences of Lara Jean’s love letters. Her middle school crush, John Ambrose (Jordan Fisher), replies to her love letter, sending Lara Jean’s heart a flutter. Not sure how to respond, Lara Jean decides to let sleeping dogs lie still and not respond. Unfortunately, fate has other plans, as John Ambrose becomes the only other volunteer at the Bellevue Retirement Home besides Lara Jean.
For any good love triangle to work, the audience has to believe both possible relationships. Condor and Centineo have sparkling chemistry, as demonstrated from the first film. Condor’s squeaky-clean Lara Jean makes for a wonderfully anxious protagonist. Her overwhelming desire to do good makes her easy to root for and she has no shortage of options in boyfriends. Centineo’s swagger and charm are on full display. It seems impossible to resist him, though his outgoing jock persona produces some conflict with the more reserved Lara Jean. This makes Jordan Fisher’s John Ambrose a perfect foil and a welcome new addition to the cast. John Ambrose has a great heart, killer smile and nothing but respect for Lara Jean. He’s the more traditional “good guy” up against Peter, the popular and beloved athlete. That both John Ambrose and Peter used to be friends only complicates matters further.
John Ambrose isn’t the only welcome new addition to the cast. Holland Taylor makes a joyous entrance as Stormy, the most fabulous resident of Bellevue Retirement Home. Stormy swirls martinis while giving Lara Jean boy advice. Taylor camps it up as the Grand Dame voice of reason. Though she could stand to be featured more, every moment she’s in feels like a gift.
This second entry also gives many of the supporting cast members fun storylines and new developments. John Corbett gets a love interest in the Covey’s new neighbor, Trina Rothschild (Sarayu Blue). This gives Kitty plenty of opportunity to meddle and drop one-liners. Cathcart cements herself as a hilarious young talent, as Kitty continues to be a fan-favorite character.
There’s a lot to smile about in “P.S. I Still Love You,” but not a whole lot else. The original movie felt like this original breath of fresh air. There was a lot more conflict around Lara Jean’s reluctance to open herself up. In delving into the death of her mother, the original film knew how to get the audience to cry. The sequel features a lovely scene where Lara Jean and Kitty wear a hanbok dress for Korean New Year. Yet, the moments where “P.S. I Still Love You” gets you to cry, rather than a swoon, are few and far between. Everything feels much more familiar and expected this time around. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It just means “P.S. I Still Love You” is the cinematic equivalent of comfort food, while “To All The Boys I Loved” is a full meal.
“To All The Boys: P.S. I Still Love You” is currently streaming on Netflix.
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